Our Vision for 2020 - Barbells For Bullies
2019 was a big year for us. Our biggest year to date. We donated more than we ever have. We launched satellite and online competitions, as well as peer-to-peer efforts with our Ruck Your Balls Off initiative, co-branded with GORUCK, and our Sit Rep initiative, to raise money and awareness for organizations like Operation Sidekick that match shelter dogs with veterans in need.
All of these were proofs of concept, and all of them were successful by the metrics we set out to measure.
But, we're not done yet. Nowhere near it.
I wanted to share our vision for 2020.
Wordplay aside, we have a clear goal as an organization: to foster a fit and socially conscientious community that rallies around rescue. We want to enrich the lives of canines and humans alike, and get ALL dogs into loving, safe homes.
With that though, we need to acknowledge a problem. A glaring one.
Bully breeds need our help.
There are some alarming statistics out there, like the fact that roughly 1.2 million dogs are euthanized in the US. Every year. That's the human population of Dallas, TX. And it happens every single year. Over half of those killed are labeled as "pit-bull" type dogs; some estimates say as many as 1 million "pit-bull" type dogs are killed in shelters every year. Rural and inner city shelters without the proper resources in many cases either can't or don't (read: aren't legally required to) report their euthanasia numbers, so the number could be even greater. Some county shelters can't even adopt out "pit bulls" due to laws on the books that label them as "dangerous" making them rescue only.
Part of this problem we can address with The Underdog Fund - specifically we can pledge money to bullies that are in "rescue only" county shelters, encouraging dog rescues to pull them. Rescues may be reticent to pull dogs that are in need veterinary care, or the rescues/shelters have a lack of funding - we can alleviate that concern. If throwing $200 down stops a dog from being killed for no other reason than "space" or for the way it looks (block head, strong shoulders, muscular body), we will throw that money down all day long.
But before I can talk about where we're going, we need to talk about where we've been.
The American Pit Bull Terrier used to be "America's Dog." Advertisers in to 1920's and 1930's fought for the right to use bullies in their branding and logos - as it represented a strong, loyal, gentle, loving companion. Tons of public figures owned bullies - from Teddy Roosevelt to Helen Keller to Jack Dempsey. Sgt. Stubby - a WWI hero, saved countless lives and ran into fray, taking part in 8 battles - and was the most decorated war dog of WWI. Petey from the Little Rascals was a pittie.
Then, around 50 years ago, something changed.
The only thing that has changed has been our own perceptions. The only variation has been the media narrative; nothing about the dogs has changed at all. They're just as loyal now as they were when we were using them in WWI recruitment posters.
Fast forward 100 years or so, and they're targeted in BSL (breed specific legislation). They're vilified in the media. They're banned from certain housing developments, or a no-go for homeowners insurance.
There is even misinformation about what "bully breeds" are. Bully breeds encompass over 30 types of dog - from the mislabeled "pit bull" (we say this, because there is no such thing as a pit bull) to bulldogs, pugs, even Great Danes; as well as including the American Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier - the dogs most closely resembling the cultural "pit bull" meme. But often, dogs are labeled just for their looks - nothing more. In fact, over 48% of dogs that were labeled as "pit bull" mixes were in fact not bully breed at all, according to a 2016 study by the University of Florida.
What's more, breed markers also lengthened the stay of "pit bull type" dogs and functionally reduced their chances of adoption, presumably due to the breed stigma, according to a study by the University of Arizona.
Suffice it to say, this is a multi-layered complex issue (and we've only scratched the surface in the preceding paragraphs) - which will necessarily require a multi-faceted solution.
Our 2020 Vision:
1) Supporting Spay Neuter Efforts - Ruck Your Balls Off, and similar efforts, will have the singular vision and purpose of providing resources and funds to spay-neuter operations around the country. One of the ways to prevent the senseless death of over 1 million dogs is to stop them from entering the shelter system in the first place by providing free/low cost spay neuter to the most at risk areas and beyond, if possible. In 4q2019, we donated almost $12,000. Our goal is to donate $25,000 in 2020. This is imperative as just one unaltered female and her offspring can generate over 60,000 dogs in six years. That's enough to fill every seat in Dodger Stadium or Soldier Field.
2) Providing Resources To The Community At Large - We will be providing FREE video and written resources to our community of active, fitness-minded individuals ranging from pet health tips, first aid, responsible pet ownership, and ways to keep yourself and your kids safe when interacting with dogs. We will be posting these resources online and on socials in shareable format so as to make the largest possible impact.
3) Working With Shelters To Develop Programs - we will be open-sourcing and working with shelters to create programs that enhance the lives of animals in their care and also increase their chances of being adopted by getting them out, socialized, and in front of more people. Moreover, we want to be a resource for rescues and shelters to educate the public and dispel any myths around bully breeds, while empowering humans to be outstanding stewards and guardians of our four-legged friends.
4) The Underdog Fund - As referenced, we will continue to provide financial support to The Underdogs. And, this may not be known, but the term "Underdog" had it's genesis in the dog-fighting rings of the past.
We're reclaiming that term, and using it to help the very same dogs that were victims to this type behavior. In 2019, we donated over $3000 and sponsored over a dozen animals - paying vet bills, freedom rides, and emergency medical care. We'd like to sponsor over 50 dogs in 2020.
5) Creating Stakeholders - We want to get you active and involved in your community. To know that you can make a difference, and we will provide resources to the public, work with any gym or community that would like to get collaborate. By creating stakeholders, like you reading this, we can extend our mission and get more people involved in the rescue world. We want to create a community that rallies around fitness and rescue, and there is room for everyone.
6) More Events, More Impact - In 2018 and 2019, in addition to CrossFit events, we did some strongman events and USAW sanctioned meets. We will be adding more ways for gyms and communities to get involved. We will still do on-site competitions to create an experience and celebrate our love of fitness and rescue; but we will also be doing online competitions, like Sit Rep, virtual rucks, pop-up competitions, charity workouts, and whatever else makes sense for our supporters and their gyms!
This is just the beginning, and more will come. We are going to continue to foster a fit and socially conscientious community that rallies around rescue. If it's about enriching the lives of animals while getting and keeping humans healthy, we want in.
Welcome to 2020, our vision for how we can help animals in our community is clear.
There is a problem that needs to be addressed, and we have both eyes open. We can tackle the issues, as complicated as they are, as a community with a single purpose: Help and Save As Many Rescues As Possible. AMRAP. Help one more, then another. Repeat.
We hope you will join us as we turn this vision into reality in the coming years.
As always, thank you for your support: past, present, and future.
-Alexander Castiglione (and Slater),
Founder/Executive Director, Barbells For Bullies